LA Times: Same Sex issues may Further splinter churches

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The [Episcopal Church General] convention's host, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has tried to send a message by approving a policy at its December convention that gives local priests permission to officiate at rites of blessing for same-sex couples.

"I think it's about time we get about the business of having marriage equality in the church," said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese. "I am waiting with bated breath to see what happens" at the Anaheim meeting.

Conservative Episcopalians argue that liberalized policies will not only alienate U.S. parishes but will also add further strain to the church's troubled relationship with church leaders in Africa and elsewhere in the global Anglican Communion.

This month, one of the communion's worldwide leadership bodies affirmed its support for moratoriums on consecrating non-celibate gay bishops and on blessings for same-sex couples. The group was led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the communion's spiritual leader, who is scheduled to attend the Anaheim convention.

Resisting those mandates will "turn up the flame," said the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana and a leader in a group of clergy trying to strengthen Episcopal ties to the Anglican Communion. "If we take a step at General Convention that takes us down the road, we will lose more people," he said.

Still, the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, said she believes the U.S. church and its global partners can co-exist even if they disagree on the rights of gay men and lesbians in the church. She also said she did not expect this year's convention, at which bishops, clergy and lay leaders are allowed to vote, to reach a decision on the issue of same-sex blessing rites.

"We're not afraid of people watching over our shoulders," Jefferts Schori said. "We live with diversity on issues that get people charged up."

Read it carefully and read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)General Convention Presiding Bishop TEC ConflictsInstruments of UnitySexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesLutheranSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Posted May 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Cole wrote:

“Hanson said ...  Diversity is a gift of God, just as unity is a gift of God.”

By diversity doesn’t he mean second guessing the Word?

Genesis 3:4-5 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

May 26, 7:05 pm | [comment link]
2. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Diversity in the word moratoria.  It’s not your dictionary’s moratoria.  Gotta love the consequences of Rowan’s “overacceptance” trial.  Looks suspiciously like aiding and abetting to the less than hyperintelligent or non-Englished first language folks (see Jamaica, ACC), but brillo-iant strategy for “keeping everyone at the table”.  Say, Rowan, at GC2009, how is that strategy working out for you, really?

May 26, 7:57 pm | [comment link]
3. Susan Russell wrote:

“[KJS] did not expect this year’s convention, at which bishops, clergy and lay leaders are allowed to vote, to reach a decision on the issue of same-sex blessing rites.”

Well, I didn’t expect the 2006 convention to reach a decision on a woman as Presiding Bishop, either, so there you go!

May 26, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
4. Passing By wrote:

Yeah, and my mommy taught me that two wrongs don’t make a right.

May 26, 9:12 pm | [comment link]
5. Hakkatan wrote:

From the article:

“We have . . . a blessing of liturgical furnishings, including chairs and kneelers. Surely we can find our way clear to have a rite of blessing for two people, good Christians, who wish to commit themselves to each other until death do they part,” said Phil Soucy, a spokesman for the group.

When we bless a chair, a chalice, or even a motorcycle or fishing boat, we are asking God to be in and with those objects as they are used for the purposes for which they were designed and intended.  We are asking God to enable them to have a perfect fulfillment of their nature.

If someone asks God to bless a same-sex relationship, that person is asking God to fulfill a purpose that he, the designer, never intended.  It is asking God to stand his purpose on its head.  It would be like asking God to bless a bank robbery or a lie.  God will not bless the breaking of his commands, no matter how attractive that breaking of his command may appear.  The worst temptations are those which look the best; something that is 95% right is more of a temptation than something which is clearly wrong.  Certainly, there are same-sex couples whose relationship is better than some heterosexual couples - but being partially right does not make the relationship entirely acceptable.  God has said that sexual relationship are reserved for a man and a woman in marriage.

To bless what God has said is wrong is to invoke his name in vain.

May 27, 7:10 am | [comment link]
6. robroy wrote:

Proceed onwards, Lemmings!

Sarah Hey, in her Colorado talks two years ago, discussed how the institutional liberals won’t be able to control the ideological liberals. This summer she will (yet again) be able to say, “I told you so.”

May 27, 7:12 am | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

As usual, I strongly agree with robroy (#6).  I think the Anaheim GenCon is likely to be a disaster for TEC as an institution, in the sense that the ideological liberals (like +Bruno, who is “waiting with baited breath” for the event) seem keen on pushing hard for full victory for their agenda, and the conservative resistance has of course been greatly weakened by the departure of four of the most conservative dioceses, and the torpedoing of the Covenant in Jamaica which leaves the CP bishops’ position weakened.

Kendall urged us to read this piece “carefully,” and so I’ll offer a few detailed comments.  First, I think it’s actually a sure thing that the so-called “mainline” Protestant churches are going to “splinter” further, and that the process will accelerate this summer as TEC holds its GenCon in July and the ELCA holds its national conventio in August.  But I think the LA Times article oversimplifies the options and frames them too narrowly.

That is, the question isn’t just whether these prominent historic denominations will “remain intact or splinter into smaller churches.”  There’s another possibility, of course, which is actually the most likely one, and that’s an accelerated hemorrage of orthodox or conservative Episcopalians and Lutherans as individuals and families from those bodies.  For Sarah Hey (among others) is also right about the fact that this is the MAIN way that TEC and other oldline (or ex-mainline) denominations have been losing members, although it’s far less visible and dramatic than when whole parishes and dioceses leave.  As Bishop Ed Little warns in the article, if TEC continues on its pro-gay trajectory, “we will lose more PEOPLE” (not necessarily more dioceses, but certainly a lot more people).

Second, the article also oversimplifies things in its summary statement that “700” conservative parishes defected from TEC “last year.”  That’s being sloppy with the facts.  It’s true that the ACNA claims roughly 700 congregations (the actual figure is less than that round number), but over 100 of them are part of the REC, a few are new church plants and not breakaways at all, and even among the ex-TEC churches, many left earlier than “last year.”  As we all know, in the world of journalism, a liberal rag like the LA Times is free to express its opinions or interpretations of the facts reported, but the facts themselves are supposed to reported accurately.  The facts are supposed to be sacred.  But the story is quite misleading on this point.

More could be said, but let me focus on the line of PB Schori, who is quoted as saying, “We’re not afraid of people watching over our shoulders.”  Yeah, that’s for sure.  She and her reprehensible liberal ilk have never been too worried about how the rest of the AC or the wider Christian world reacts to their “prophetic” stance on behalf of what she and they (wrongly of course) believe is the cause of social justice for LGMT’s.  And it’s precisely that smug indifference to what other Christians think (the real ones, that is), that is what makes it likely that the conflicts will only intensify this summer.

But in the end, that’s probably a good and necessary thing.  For the fundamental truth is, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Oil and water simply don’t mix.  They will inevitably separate.

David Handy+

May 27, 8:01 am | [comment link]
8. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

A correction and elaboration on my #7,

I meant LGBTs of course.  But two further points.

First, I think the article gets it right in saying, “If (SSBs are) approved, the steps could FURTHER ALIENATE theological conservatives…”  That is, such an action would only aggravate the already high and bitter tensions within TEC (and the same goes if the ELCA in August backs this study that appears to endorse the local option policy).  For some, it will prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

But in the end, I think clarity is good and self-differentiation is healthy, even when it’s divisive.  The de facto schism already exists; it’s only a matter of time when it becomes de jure.

Second, by highlighting the statement of the ELCA presiding bishop Mark Hanson at the end,and giving him the last word, the article implicitly favors the viewpoint he expresses, which is that “inclusive” denominations like TEC and the ELCA ought to be able to weather such storms.  Which of course actually begs the equestion of whether or not the vexing, protracted dispute over homosexual behavior is one that involves essential matters.  Such a claim actually assumes the very point under debate, which is whether homosexual behavior can be reconciled with biblical teaching and the moral consensus of the universal Church for 2,000 years.  For if not (and of course, it can’t), then the whole discussion is moot, since there is no theological justification for the pro-gay position at all.

David Handy+

May 27, 9:00 am | [comment link]
9. Passing By wrote:

“For if not (and of course, it can’t), then the whole discussion is moot, since there is no theological justification for the pro-gay position at all”.

Not to dumb down your well-thought-out and articulate comments, Fr. Handy, but we all know that “becuz we feel like it” is theological justification enough. 

Ok, sarcasm off…


May 27, 10:35 am | [comment link]
10. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Jersey Girl, that was NOT sarcasm but the simple “theological” truth of the ECUSA/TEC/GCC/EO-PAC.  Translated it means “Mine, mine, mine!” with all the ferocious intensity and thought of two years struggling for an object of momentary desire.

May 27, 11:07 am | [comment link]
11. First Family Virginian wrote:

Well, I didn’t expect the 2006 convention to reach a decision on a woman as Presiding Bishop, either, so there you go! 

Neither did I ... but I’m certainly okay with what happened.  She makes a very fine PB.

May 27, 5:09 pm | [comment link]
12. Cennydd wrote:

Surely, thou doth jest!

May 27, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
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